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Slain From Within An Analysis On The Collapse Of A System Of Checks And Balances That Once Existed In The Late Roman Republic

2037 words - 9 pages

When one speaks of ancient Rome, there are many attributing impacts that have remained imprinted on world history and culture forever. None is greater than its innovative form of government, which came to be known as the Republic. It is fair to say that the Republic was founded by the people and then in turn was torn apart by the people. But for some 200 years there was a degree of balance that existed among the powerful Senatorial aristocracy and the common citizen. The cause for the breakdown of this balance can be linked to the emergence of violence as a political means to obtain power that was clearly seen in single events, trends and individuals. In time, violence began to deteriorate ...view middle of the document...

It demanded, among other things, 10 years of military or legal service before any magistracy could be held, annual election and two years between consecutive offices. By dividing jurisdiction between several groups and allowing for veto, this system was ensured that no individual could become too powerful.Unfortunately, early in the Republic, power was not given to the people like intended, but rather concentrated into the hands of Patricians, who were the wealthy land owners and politicians. Anyone who was not a Patrician was known as a Plebeian. Over the next two centuries the internal history of Rome was marred by what has come to be known as the "Struggle of the Orders." This struggle was brought forth because the political and religious offices of the state were being monopolized by the Patricians. The Plebeians fought a two-fold struggle against the Patrician domination of the state with their aims being to have more political rights, specifically that they could be properly represented in the government, and that there would be a broader distribution of publicly owned land. During the early 5th century B.C., a tribune of Plebeians was elected to protect their class's rights, and reserved the right to veto any movement by the powerful Senate. (Barrow, 1949 pp. 49-51) Once the Plebeians finally were able to implement proper representation, they swore an oath (lex sacrata) that they would kill anyone who harmed their elected representatives, the tribunes. (Crawford, 1993 pp. 22-25) In the words of Rostovtzeff, "The heavier the pressure of the state on the upper classes, the more intolerable became the condition of the lower" (Rostovtzeff, 1957 pp. 430). But despite these events that brought forth balance concerning equality, power still depended on wealth and prestige. During this time period that encompassed the "Struggle of the Orders," nationalistic passion still united Rome's Patricians and Plebeians, when they were faced with outside influences. However, this unification would not last for long.During the beginning of the 2nd century B.C., the Plebeians saw their once held balance slowly erode away. Interestingly it was not a Roman who was responsible for creating this chasm in the balance, but an invader known by the name of Hannibal. During his invasion of Northern Italy, Hannibal had destroyed the countryside; while the wealthy sat secure within the walls of Rome, thousands of people had their livelihoods destroyed. With no land they also had no work and therefore began to flood the large cities. (Crawford, 1993. pp. 50-52) The Patricians, who had grown wealthier because of the spoils of war, bought up the farmlands so that by the middle of the second century, Roman agriculture was dominated by large plantations owned by the powerful wealthy landowners. This was not the only economic catastrophe that would befall the lower classes of the Plebeians. The Punic and Macedonian Wars flooded Roman territories with new slaves. Rome had had...

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